She sat across from me and I could tell that she thought she was being conspicuous by turning her head and dabbing her eyes; that she could hide the tears forming in the corners of her eyes behind her wide smile.
She couldn’t. My doctor was crying.
Dr. Alvear and I had just met a few weeks before when I had lugged all three of my children through her office door for my bi-monthly diabetes check-up. She was timid and patient and kindly allowed me to mother throughout our conversation. She was thorough and smart and seemed to genuinely care about my condition and well-being – I liked her right off the bat.
During that first appointment, I poured my heart out. I told her about the financial struggles preventing me from using a pump glucose monitor. I told her about the difficulty I have slowing down long enough to test my blood sugars. I told her that I ballpark my insulin dosages, that I sometimes miss my long-acting injections, and I wake up daily with blood sugars over 300. I put it all out there, the whole time making sure my kids didn’t break the stethoscopes, over-inflate the rubber gloves or turn the foam soap into funny looking Santa beards. I left that first appointment feeling heard and safe and comfortable.
I consider myself a totally normal mom – my life probably looks like that of many 30-something moms out there. On top of all of the daily stresses that alone brings, I’ve also had to learn to manage my Type 1 Diabetes, and find a way to incorporate it into my definition of “normal.”
For me, getting injections is at the same level as brushing my teeth. Checking my blood is as commonplace as washing my hair. Teaching my kids how to handle mommy’s episodes of hypoglycemia went hand-in-hand with conversations about stranger danger and how to stop, drop and roll. I’ve come to the place where it just IS. It truly IS what it IS. I’m no superhero. I’m just a mom managing the cards I’ve been dealt.
Taking all of this into consideration as I sat across from my doctor that day, I couldn’t help but wonder, why was my doctor crying?
Was she scared for me? Were my sugars so bad that she knew something I didn’t but was afraid to tell me? Was she worried that these three kids who were taking turns speed-spinning in her office chair were going to have to suffer a loss earlier than their peers? Was I doing something so wrong that she couldn’t even find the words to say it? I was scared. This is no joke. She’s crying because she knows the gravity of my situation. Because she knows this isn’t something I can live beyond. She knows something. She knows.
I piled two kids onto my lap while the third one dug through my purse for the fruit snacks I had promised.
After a beat of silence, she turned to me and said, “You have a full life. What a wonderful, full life.”
I DO have a full life. Sure, there are handicaps that prevent me from being at full strength, but the life that I’ve made for my family and myself is full. And dare I even say wonderful? My pancreas doesn’t work. So what? Neither does my car starter half the time. I make a great effort to evoke acceptance, diligence, positivity, and care, with both my health and my life. And my doctor saw that.
She wasn’t scared for me. She was proud of me. She was proud that I grab every day by the horns and ride gallantly into the sunset. She was proud of how much I have overcome and how much more I want to learn. She was proud of my honesty and fearlessness, although I know she heard doubt and worry in my voice when we discussed my inability to sense lows or highs. She was proud of my loud, uproarious, active and appreciative life – the one she so affectionately called “full and wonderful.” And those very same tears opened my heart to the realities that come with this full life; reminding me to try hard and work harder because a whole lot is riding on the care I give to myself day in and day out.
I rounded up the kids, picked Cheerios off the ground and tucked crayons back into my purse. I smiled because I knew this relationship with my doctor was going to go well beyond any of my past. She acknowledged the life I’ve worked so hard to create, both physically and mentally. She gave me so much more than was itemized out in my doctor bill, and for that I am eternally grateful.
As we exited her office, I shot her a look of sincere gratitude and snagged a handful of tissues from the computer desk.
Maybe I had to dab a few corner tears myself.
Or maybe I needed to wipe foam soap Santa beards off the chins of my children.
I’ll never tell.